How accepting our darkest material impacts body image
Ever since I was a child I felt like I was“too much.”
Too much energy, too much desire, too emotional, too needy, too much work, too aggressive, too masculine, too sexual, too many thoughts, and I constantly had way too much to say.
I wasn’t totally crazy to feel this way, of course. My mom was trying to raise two young kids at once, and I was always the “difficult one.” Growing up I heard a lot of comments like ‘you’re quite a handful’ from different people, and I was aware that my presence seemed to exhaust people.
After puberty, I got the same kind of feedback from boys and men. Comments like “wow, you’re a lot to handle” were very common, as was the general sense that I was overwhelming them.
I realize now that those boys were looking for a sexual object, not a whole person– they simply weren’t interested (or equipped) to handle the full 3D human that came with it. But at the time it just seemed like further proof that I was too much for people, that there was something wrong with me that needed to be controlled.
So I learned to slow myself down, blend in, and shrink.
I tucked in my wild corners, to make myself smaller and quieter. I kept my weirder thoughts to myself, I became fiercely independent so as not to have to rely on someone else to get my needs met, and I tried (and failed) to be less emotional. Try as I might though, I failed constantly, and often felt guilty for overwhelming people with the too-muchness that spilled through the cracks and poured forth despite my best intentions.
Still searching for a way to make it ok, I latched onto the idea that if I had a perfect, feminine, dainty little body, maybe it would compensate for my too-muchness, especially with men.
I hoped (unconsciously, of course) that if my body could be small and beautiful enough, it would make up for my wild energy and big personality. I hoped that if my body was perfect it would take the edge off my total presentation, and make it a little more ok to be myself.
Body insecurities are almost always rooted in an attempt to use our bodies to meet some deeper emotional need. One emotional need I was trying to meet by looking “good enough” was permission to be my full authentic self.
Of course, no matter how I looked, I still never felt like I had that permission. (This is often the case for my clients too, that the emotional need they’re trying to fill is feeling safe to be, feel, or express their fullest authentic selves.)
I felt such shame about my own too-muchness that when I went digging into my unmet emotional needs, I discovered that I had been controlling, monitoring, and editing myself for so long that I felt caged and trapped, desperate to take the lid off and let my true self out.
This realization was huge. I wanted to be free! But that realization didn’t help because I couldn’t, at least not at first. I was still completely convinced that if I let people see me (the full me) they would be overwhelmed and reject me… or that maybe my too-muchness would even destroy them.
It might sound silly, but I felt like nobody on earth had the capacity to handle the real me, that my too-muchness was dangerous.
I was sure that the only reason I had any love or connection in my life was because I had protected everyone from the worst of my too-muchness through constant monitoring and self-control, and I sure AF wasn’t about to give all that up.
Remember this video I made on how deprivation around getting our needs met makes us feel obsessed, insatiable, and terrified of what would happen if we ever stopped controlling everything using our sheer force of will?
It’s important to note that nobody on earth would have been able to convince me at the time that I wasn’t too much. I would have remained convinced of my story because nobody had ever “seen” my full too-muchness.
So instead, what I had to do was embrace the fact that I am too much, to feel the fear and start expressing my full self anyway, knowing that doing so would probably drive people away.
Of course exactly the opposite happened, because my full self might be intense, but it’s not so much people can’t handle it! (Hint: nobody’s is.)
Admittedly, some people found their way out of my life when I started expressing my full authentic self, but they were mostly dudes who wanted me to be “more chill” lol. Many other wonderful humans I had been been previously unable to connect with however, were suddenly, powerfully drawn in.
I now consider my full authentic self to be a litmus test for everyone I meet.
I’m not for everyone, I know that. And I don’t want to waste my time with people who aren’t my people, so the sooner we discover the mismatch the better. Being my fullest authentic self helps us figure that shit out ASAP.
This is only one example of what I call my “dark material.” Dark materials refers to the parts of ourselves we reject, hate, hide, and deem unworthy or unlovable.
Learning to face and embrace our dark material is one of the most empowering, healing, and liberating things we can do, and it also has a surprising effect on body image.
The truth is that when you’re truly not ashamed of who you are, it’s really hard to be ashamed of your body.
I’ve worked hard to identify, accept, and integrate all of my dark material. There is nothing I am ashamed of. There is nothing I reject. As a result, there is nothing about myself I find unworthy or unlovable, and I no longer feel attached to or upset about anything regarding my body.
I have plenty of weaknesses and flaws, don’t get me wrong, but I view them neutrally now, exactly how I view my body– with curiosity, not judgement. #bodyneutralityforlife
If breaking free from body insecurity, obsession, and negativity meant learning to identify, accept, and integrate your deepest, darkest material, would you do it? If liking your body meant liking yourself, what work would need to be done?
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